Making Concrete Swing

A rendering of the new SFJAZZ Center, designed by Mark Cavagnero.
Courtesy Mark Cavagnero Associates

Earlier this month, Mark Cavagnero, who just completed his renovation of the Oakland Museum, revealed his vision of the SFJAZZ Center, the country’s first freestanding jazz concert hall. The hall, which is expected to open in the fall of 2012, will be a concrete box, enclosed in a transparent glass-and-steel structure on its two public sides.

A rendering of the concert hall, which is encased in a concrete box.

“It’s the idea that jazz is this world of opposites, where elements play off each other,” Cavagnero said. “So here we have heavy and light. And we find the balance between the two when each is strong in its own way.”

The $60 million, 35,000 square-foot structure will be located on the edge of Hayes Valley, just around the corner from Davies Symphony Hall and the city’s other performing arts centers. From the street, the activity along all three stories will be visible: performers in their rehearsal rooms, patrons in the lobby and the bar, and—before the doors close at show time—the stage itself. “For the future of the organization, it’s critical that the building helps develop an audience for their art form,” Cavagnero said.

A model showing the relationship of the concert hall to the rest of the structure, which has practice rooms and balconies located on its steel-and-glass perimeter.

The performance space itself will seat up to 700 people and is designed to be highly flexible, allowing concerts in the round. It also features a one-story high bank of windows, allowing the changing colors of the sky to function as a backdrop for the experience. Sam Berkow, who worked on Jazz at Lincoln Center, was the consultant on the acoustics, and Len Auerbach was the theatre consultant.

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